Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mythic Creatures of Asia: Caonima, The Grass Mud Horse of China.

A little more tongue-in-cheek than usual, the New York Times and others are reporting on the internet phenomenon in China regarding the Caonima, one of the "ten mythic beasts of Baidu" also known as the Grass Mud Horse from the desert of Ma Le Ge Bi, who are courageous, tenacious and overcome difficult environments, even, apparently the oppression of the evil river crabs, who are ultimately defeated by Caonima. They look remarkably like Alpacas, according to most people. Here's an example of one such song:

Of course, there are stuffed toys and all sorts of songs and stories emerging about the Caonima, but one part of it's popularity is also due to the fact that the name is just a few tones removed from the absolute worst thing you could say about someone's mother. Most of the story is actually laced with homophones that sound awfully close to naughty words or snipes at censorship by the Chinese government.

According to the New York Times:
...“river crab” sounds very much like “harmony,” which in China’s cyberspace has become a synonym for censorship. Censored bloggers often say their posts have been “harmonized” — a term directly derived from President Hu Jintao’s regular exhortations for Chinese citizens to create a harmonious society.
Interesting. It makes me think of several elements of the "Misty" poetry movement within Chinese poetry a few decades ago, which produced writers such as Bei Dao. But, I also bear in mind, Chinese culture has a tradition of using this style of veiled language for thousands of years. It is interesting to see how all of this plays out in cyberspace now. How the human voice yearns to be free, everywhere in the world.

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